“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”
– Amelia Earhart
Building a Bug Out Bag is not a matter of womanliness. It is, instead, a matter of pragmatism. I surely don’t want to sound too harsh by saying that, but I am certain to speak for all the women out there who already commit themselves to consider the real possibility of a SHTF situation.
by Kyt Lyn Walken, professional tracker and contributing writer
Away from rooting for a feministic perspective, this article is intended to be a handy know-how on the different factors to consider when it comes to building a basic-but-convenient bug out bag (BOB) you can rely on.
The Importance of Common Sense and Care
As every bug out scenario is fluid and in frantic change, I highly suggest that you check your gear periodically in order to assess if the gear (and obviously the bag itself) are in good condition as humidity (or excessive heat) can damage them.
In fact, the choice of the proper place to keep it as well as to storage the different items is never to be underestimated: your bag out bag should always be at very easy reach, and always ready to grab it and go.
Set aside any idea of finding your bug out bag to be unaesthetic inside your home. Find the right place for it and maintain that without moving it every month! In fact, I know firsthand how women care about keeping home tidy, but let me stress that a lack of memory about the exact position of your BOB can make you lose precious time when you need it most.
Homo (et femina) Faber Est Suae Quisque Fortunae
This ancient Latin quote from Appius Claudius Caecus, relevant statesman of the Roman Republic (c. 340 BC – after 280 BC), means literally “Every man is the artisan of his own fortune.” I just add the word “femina” (“woman”) to underline the absolute parity of the two genders when it comes to preparing both sexes for the worst.
Needless to say, men and women can surely find commonalities when building their respective bug out bags. But one thing is certain: men and women have different needs. We have physical dissimilarities, but we also to the eventual presence of children and, last but not least, womanliness.
Women need to prepare their bag by including any feminine items. Men do not. Those items could be a lipstick, eyeliner, and a brush – not to mention tampons. Granted, some items will be more of a “need” than others, but some of these items can turn to be extremely useful. Lipstick, for instance, can be used to leave a visible message (like a call for help) on surfaces like walls, windows, and so on. Any element which contains alcohol can turn to be relevant to start fires (especially tampons). What was originally has been designed for beauty purposes can provide other aid if applied differently.
An open mind, combined with a sense of practicality, can really make the difference in developing the SHTF mindset. Additionally, being feminine doesn’t turn you into a weak individual, just focused on aesthetic. That said, it can be “pretty” convenient if you need to cope with a very delicate situation, taking advantage of being.. a woman.
This topic has more to do with psychology than survival but survival has a lot to do with psychology.
One Body, One Mind, One Gear
No one will carry your bag out bag but you. Therefore, pay extra attention when selecting the right bag and do not focus your preferences only on shape, color, and trendiness. Staying alive has nothing to do with being trendy. At all.
For sure, the choice of the adequate bag can take trial and error. That could means months, sometimes years. This is especially true when you lose (or gain) weight, when you get older, or just when you have an unexpected physical issue.
Again, the concept to keep in mind is that the scene is fluid. Your body and your mind must adapt to that.
Personally speaking, I have changed more than twenty bug out bags in less than six years as my body faced several changes, and my mind too, in terms of:
- physical preparation,
- mental preparation,
- skills acquired,
- increased knowledge,
- fears overcome,
- consciousness of my limits,
- and much more.
Testing various products does not necessarily turn you into a gear maniac or a fanatic.
The Three A’s of a Bug Out Bag
Being curious and current on the performances of new bags, rucksacks, and so on, it is just a matter of what I call The Three A‘s:
In my specific case, I moved from a Tasmanian Tiger Range Pack MK II with 100 liter capacity to a Berghaus Vulcan II Military Rucksack.
If you are acquainted with these models, it will immediately dawn on you the different designs of these backpacks. The Range Pack MK II has a more skinny outline, while the Vulcan has a more traditional, old school design with two big side pouches.
The reason why I moved from one to the other is because of my physical features. I am 5′ 7″ tall, but I am very skinny (114 pounds). Carrying a tall backpack doesn’t allow me to raise my neck. This is especially difficult on steep slopes, forcing me to keep my sight low.
Even as I tried several times to fix it according to my height, I didn’t manage to find the proper settings so I decided to discard it. I couldn’t rely on something which represented for me a physical hindrance.
Bug Out Bag Pros and Cons
It goes without saying that every gear have pros and cons. Our needs, preferences and budget influence all our decisions, even relating to equipment. I prefer having a backpack designed as a sack, with a top pouch and two side ones. But what I find comfortable in order to keep everything within easy reach doesn’t work for other people.
So, the only way to go is to fix your priorities based on the main features of the situation you find yourself in, without forgetting the indirect undertones your physical status might require. Nonetheless, you must always opt for durable, lightweight gear, and provide extra care to reduce the chance of back injury. A proper waist belt will help satisfy that need.
Your bug out scenario may also require a stealth mode (see my post Stay Hidden While Traveling by Foot – Advice from a Tracker). So, the best way to go may be in favor of camouflage patterns, avoiding flashy colors like fluorescent green, yellow, pink, or light blue. The colors are rarely present in any measurable way in natural surroundings.
In this case, I would also recommend to avoiding gear with noisy snaps. Instead, you can grease every zip with wax or flax seed oil. It will serve you greatly to reduce the noise zip openings often may produce.
Bug Out Bag Gear Basics
Generally speaking, a regular bag out bag (set for at least 72 hours) must answer to the following requirements in terms of:
- Hygiene Products and First Aid (first aid kit, duct tape, tourniquet, toiletries, menstruation items, etc.)
- Clothing (dry and clean clothes, waterproof jackets, warm clothes, proper shoes, scarf, hat, etc.)
- Tools and weapons (multi-tool, survival knife, weapons of your choice, ammo, cleaning kit, etc.)
- Navigation (mobile phone, compass, maps of the area, GPS, batteries, charging station, pace counter, watch, adequate marking items, etc.)
- Protection and shelter (tarp, emergency space blanket, Paracord, Sleeping bag, bivouac tent, etc.)
- Nutrition (purification tablets or filtering system, Betadine, energy bars, MRE, lightweight utensils, canteen, etc.)
- ID documents and stationery (personal documents and licenses, pen, pencil, permanent marker, rainproof paper, etc.)
[The above mentioned groups are not listed from top to bottom in terms of importance.]
Bugging Out – Practice Makes Perfect
Accustom yourself with assembling and disassembling your bug out bag. You can go further by turning off the light of the room you are keeping it in. This will help you to quickly learn how to reach the item(s) you may need without compromising the rest of the gear according to safety, speed, and evasion.
Some anti-poaching colleagues of mine who live in South Africa taught me an interesting “trick of the trade” in order to avoid losing items during the night. This is especially if you are operating in poor light conditions and need to keep a low profile to detect any illegal activity by poachers. They tie the smallest pieces of their gear with thin ropes to a MOLLE system, making sure that nothing will fall on the ground or between bushes, or even get soaked and wet if they are in the jungle.
This is surely precious advise!
A Sharp Mind Weights Nothing
As well as needing sharp senses for survival, we also need a sharp mind. It is essential bug out “gear” and best of all – it weights nothing. A sharp mind will help us endure any hardships a SHTF event may entail. Further, our bug out bag will mirror our preparedness outlook, our knowledge, and our skills.
Every single piece must be stored in because it has at least one purpose. If it has several, it could make sense to carry at least two pieces. Nonetheless, our BOB must not be overloaded.
In fact, during a bug out, we may need to:
- carry someone else’s gear,
- bring items we may accidentally find that could prove useful,
- carry processed wild game meat,
- and so on.
Always leave enough room for any additional items you may have not anticipated needing.
Bug Out Bags for Women Summary
My final heads-up to all the women out there is this:
Accustom yourself in carrying your bug out bag for hours, with different weather conditions, and in different terrains.
We can ramble about it for hours, but the truth is that few women have the same athleticism as men. Please don’t be scoff at my words. I speak through experience; and, above all, by personal disappointments of my body – especially my back. For this reason, I started to follow a precise gym program which helps me not only to stay in good shape, but also to strengthen my shoulders, back (my weak point!), and my arms.
“Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others“
– Amelia Earhart